An Alternative Narrative

An Alternative Narrative is an artist process documentation film that derives inspiration from the lived experiences, community narratives and practices of a variety of creatives, community members with a special attention to the collaborative process of Ndoto Zetu kids.  Ndoto Zetu, previously a program under Dandora Hip Hop City is a Community Based Organisation based in Dandora founded in 2017 by Dash Johnte, a rapper, environmental activist and community engaged artist. Aggrey met Dash at Dandora Hip Hop City in 2017 during the infancy of Ndoto Zetu and the amazing work Dash was doing having set up a program that takes in kids from the community and provide a creative safe space to nature their talents after experiencing five years living off of two different Dumpsites sparked a friendship between the two. A collaborative relationship was started and Aggrey will make his way to Dandora Hip Hop City twice or thrice a week over several months in 2017, participate in various activities including rap cyphers, community cookouts, art making and working with kids.

Aggrey will later go to Canada to pursue his Master of Arts in Art Education at NSCAD University, Community-Based Practice stream, a responsive art education pedagogy that is grounded in the needs and experiences of communities, outreach, activism, contextualized learning about art and culture in ways that support equitable access to educational opportunities and collaborative program development. While in Canada, Aggrey worked with community organisations such as iMove, Hope Blooms and The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts and many individual creatives. While working with iMove, Aggrey participated in a Memorialisation project, all these projects drew parallels with the work with Ndoto Zetu that had been started back in 2017 in terms of community engagement, kids friendly programming, a music element, environmental friendly programming, counter mapping activism and highly collaborative decolonial contexts.

The Pandemic posed a unique challenge to youth and families, the film covers art making processes of kids during a period when communities particularly in big cities found themselves in bubbles and social spaces defined by new circumstances and ever evolving government regulations and restrictions including curfews and county to county travel bans due to lockdown. These new spaces and relations meant the immediate environment and material resources have to contribute ever more to the sustainability of the community. Food sustainability, a sense of belonging, youth wellness, health and recycling are pivotal points around which the creation and documentation happen. The film begins with shots done in Halifax, covering the trip to Dandora in Nairobi, where the sense of community conveys familiar sensibilities.

Plot development follows the discussions around creating, Ndoto Zetu community interviews and performances/ community engagement. Artists like Dash Johnte and Ndoto Zetu kids through Dandora Hip Hop City are making a positive contribution in painting a mural of positive change within the larger community. This work is a continuation of a body of work by a long list of East African veteran activists, philanthropists, artists,  creatives of all walks and community members. East African Hip Hop has been providing a great number of the lead decolonial voices in the last two and a half decades by creating new spaces for youth to tell alternative narratives the dominant political rhetoric notwithstanding. Dandora Hip Hop City is a revolutionary space and home to contemporary East African Hip Hop History. The space was established by Juliani, and provides the closest thing to a Hip Hop Museum in East Africa. Ndoto Zetu is a space for the young dreamers, where dreams manifest into a reality they envision opening doors and projecting their voices to participate in larger dialogue locally and internationally.

Music writing, story telling, poetry and Kenyan drama are a part of the creative skills the kids work on in collaboration with artists like Dash Johnte, Madigolo and Andare among other Dandora Hip Hop City artists. The Film captures parts of these processes, the materialising of some of the ideas born out of the workshops, mentorship programs and subsequent conversations. The kids engage in team building activities, incorporate play and fun in their routine and still articulate their dreams through art making. These surreal processes create an interesting interconnection with visual art forms as the kids create their image and space in the art scene. Photography, videography, photo and video editing are a part of the skills they are interested in learning. Drawing from all these the film captures the aesthetic of what being a part of Ndoto Zetu entails. A variety in materials that provide a rich creative resource is in abundance where advanced technology lacks and every kid experiences play, learning and growth vividly. Found objects form the primary economic resource and material thus creativity is encouraged by the environmental context. The environment inspired upbeat creating processes, group drawing, group painting exercises, conversations about future projects like branding, printing of Ndoto Zetu T-Shirts and packaging diversify the art materials, processes and skill application the kids are interested in. All these stem from the sustainability and creative solutions to real life issues. 

The film highlights food and energy sustainability  being addressed by the kids through urban farming projects, building a traditional oven and using found objects in the process. The  accessibility of the space is an ongoing conversation alongside available materials, animals eating the vegetables and inclusivity as Dandora Hip Hop City is by design a space for all. This film project captures the initial stages of the collaborative processes and conversations that will develop into material  for the Decolonial Narratives podcast by Aggrey Agwata, Ndoto Zetu kids podcast and Ndoto Zetu TV. Community interviews, community engagement projects, conversations and all Ndoto Zetu TV programming will be led by the kids.

This documentary film is funded by SSHRC, Produced by Counter Memory Activism Research cluster of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and The University of King’s College in Kjipuktuk / Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) in collaboration with Orgilata Entertainment, Aghra Craft House, Dandora Hip Hop City and Ndoto Zetu in Dandora, Nairobi, Kenya.